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As of this writing, the state of Maryland classifies marijuana as a Schedule I substance with no recognized medical value and a significant potential for abuse. If you’re arrested for possession of marijuana and convicted of a misdemeanor offense, you may face a $1,000 fine, up to a year in prison or both.

This statute changes significantly beginning October 1, 2014. As a result of changes decreed by the Maryland General Assembly, possession of 10 grams or less in Maryland will no longer be considered a criminal offense. Instead, the penalty will be similar to receiving a speeding ticket.

Under the new law:

  • First offense by adults 21 and older will result in a fine of $100. No jail sentence is involved.
  • Second offense carries a fine of $250.
  • If you face a third offense for simple possession, you will be required to appear in court, subject to a possible $500 fine and potential drug treatment counseling.

Possession by individuals under the age of 21 calls for an automatic court appearance and possible court-ordered drug counseling.

Upon signing the new decriminalization bill into law, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley said:

“As a young prosecutor, I once thought that decriminalizing the possession of marijuana might undermine the public will necessary to combat drug violence and improve public safety,” O’Malley said in a statement. “I now think that decriminalizing possession of marijuana is an acknowledgment of the low prioritythat our courts, our prosecutors, our police, and the vast majority of citizens already attach to this transgression of public order and public health. Such an acknowledgment in law might even lead to a greater focus on far more serious threats to public safety and the lives of our citizens.”

It’s important to note that, as things stand now, possession of marijuana paraphernalia is not decriminalized under the law set to go into effect Oct. 1. While arrest for the possession of paraphernalia such as a pipe or rolling papers won’t include jail time, it remains a misdemeanor offense with a potential $500 fine. A person convicted of multiple charges of paraphernalia possession could spend up to two years in jail.

Beginning in October, Maryland joins more than two dozen other states that allow for the use of marijuana for medical purposes and/or have legalized or decriminalized the substance in small amounts. As Lt. Governor Anthony Brown noted, “By decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana, we will be able to put our law enforcement resources where they belong: going after the real and violent crime in our communities.”